A five-judge panel of Pakistan's Supreme Court on Friday disqualified thrice-elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from holding office over corruption allegations against him and his family. In a unanimous decision, the court said Sharif was disqualified for not remaining "truthful and honest," the AP reports. It also ruled Sharif could no longer serve as a member of the National Assembly. General elections are to be held in Pakistan next year; the Supreme Court ruling ensures he won't be in the running. The court asked the Election Commission of Pakistan to issue notification of Sharif's removal, but Sharif stepped down out of his respect for the country's judiciary, he said. The current case against Sharif and his family dates back to 2016, when documents leaked from a Panama-based law firm indicated Sharif's sons owned several offshore companies.
Sharif's resignation creates a murky legal mess, with constitutional experts not sure who's in charge in Pakistan until his successor is nominated. It wasn't immediately clear when that would be, or who, though legal experts say Sharif will now nominate a lawmaker of his choice to replace him under the provisions of the constitution, noting Sharif's nominee would be elected by the National Assembly, where the ruling party enjoys a majority. A legal expert said the court's order was binding and Sharif and his family may not challenge it. The court also directed the country's anti-corruption body to file corruption charges against Sharif, his two sons, and daughter in the next six weeks for concealing their assets. The situation isn't a first for Pakistan: In 2012, the court convicted then-Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani in a contempt case, forcing him to step down.